Color Theory at Work

Dress: Banana Republic Factory sz 00P (old)
Blazer: H&M; sz 2   Bag: LV Speedy 25
Necklace: Amrita Singh Nello (use mom11 for 50% off – Thanks Alyssa!)
Nude Pumps: Louboutin Simple 100s sz 35 (recently ordered version)

As temps warm up, I’m happy to chuck black tights (so limiting!) in exchange for vibrant colors.

If you work in a professional environment, you can still join in on the color fun. Some simple tips I follow to keep work outfits vibrant, versus loud:

– When wearing large blocks of color, it’s safer to do neighboring/analogous colors (blue with green, red with orange) instead of complimentary/opposite colors (blue with orange, red with green, purple with yellow). Neighboring colors appear harmonious together, whereas complimentary colors make each other look bolder – better reserved for casual wear.


– If you have a lot of the same color in your closet, try a monochromatic look. I love layering pieces of different shades or textures, but in the same general color (ie. three blues).

– Use neutrals (or black, if you must) to keep colorful outfits from going over the top. Nude pumps are the bomb. I’m in love with these Louboutins, but they’re not for everyday wear for a simple gal like myself. I’m hoping the nude pumps ordered in this post will fill that void.

For color inspirations, I like Wendy’s color blocking video, Anh’s bright pencil pairing, and the fab entries in Kileen’s Color Brigade.

I haven’t worn this dress in a year, but it’s deeply imprinted in my memory that this is the best-right-off-the-rack-fitting dress I own. I remember it fitting like a spectacular glove. Upon re-discovering it last week, I was shocked by the ill fit and childish silhouette. Either my body morphed over the past year, or my fit standards have completely changed.

BlueGreen5_dressfit copy

To save this dress, I looked for a fitted blazer with a deep V-neckline to conceal the babydoll silhouette and help redefine my waist. This H&M; jacket works nicely, but wearing a fitted cardigan in Kelly’s X-shape will also do.

Readers – have you been breaking out bright colors for work? Or sticking with safe black and gray?

55 thoughts on “Color Theory at Work

  • DSK Steph May 1, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I do love those 100's!

  • Deinha Rocha May 1, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I just love your tips!Tks!


  • PetiteLittleGirl May 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I am trying to wear more colors. This post is very helpful, Jean. Pairing complementary colors is something I found lacking in my daily wear. I will keep this color chart in mind. I love these outdoor photos. So pretty! Thanks for sharing the tips.

  • Mindy♥ May 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Ahh I absolutely love this post! You girls are inspiring me so much to branch out into the world of colors! <3

  • kileen May 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    those CL 100s are perfect and i'm really glad to see that you ended up going with those. and i like how you paired the blue with the green. great idea on pairing neighboring colors together — i'll definitely have to try that out!

    oh, and thanks for the color brigade shout-out! 🙂

  • gold N turquoise May 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    great colors!

    you always look so unbelievably polished! thanx for sharing 🙂


  • Petiteélégant May 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    The shoes are perfect!

  • The Little Dust Princess May 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    I like your hair clipped back like this! And great use of colours. Very inspiring for someone like me. : ) You look so tall in the left photo!! For some reason, I don't like how high the waist is on that dress. :S

    P.S. nice blazer ; ) Elaine & I have the same one! haha

  • R.L. May 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    The emerald Nello looks gorgeous against your blue sheath dress. Jean, you really have developed a knack for incorporating vibrant pieces while still looking stylish and professional! And I must say those CL pumps are worth their price tag. They're truly nude and the pops of red from the heel are so pretty.

    P.S. I like the new layout, but I must admit I will miss your banner 🙂

  • Cee May 1, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Gorgeous photos, Jean! I like your use of neighboring colors for your outfit set against complimentary colors for the background (I'm putting my new vocab to good use already :P)

    May I make a suggestion for the photo with text? I don't know what editing software you use, but have you played around with effects in Photoshop? I think the black text would stand out more with a soft glow/white border against a darker background. For soft glow, right click on the text layer, click "effect" and choose "soft glow". I think for a white border, render the text layer (right click layer, render), then go to Edit -> Stroke -> 1px outside border.

    PS – Love this clean but yet professional layout. Simplicity at its best!

  • SewPetiteGal May 1, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Jean, that first photo is stunningly beautiful! It reminds me of those gorgeous Ann Taylor ads featuring Katie Holmes. I've definitely been incorporating more color ever since seeing Kileen's combos and now that she has the Color Brigade, I like to participate on a semi-regular basis.

    Thanks for breaking out the color wheel – I'm a very visual learner and this was very helpful!

  • Alterations Needed May 1, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I love color theory! Analogous colors are my favorite…especially with accessories like belts and jewelry. It's makes an outfit look so sleek & put together. Great layout makeover btw! It's very clean looking!

  • Jen May 1, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    The color of the dress suits you very well, very striking!

  • Claud May 1, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Jean, you are looking gorgeous! If you can share the style number of the H&M; jacket, I love it. And of course those nude pumps CL are stunning ^^

  • Anonymous May 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Hey Gurl!
    I have to say I loved your older webpage look – it looked so personalized and unique.

    I hope I can bother you with a few questions. I can not believe how great your hair always looks, I am starting to transition from student to working professional and need some advice on hair styling – unfortunately I am one of those asians with frizzy wavy hair that rarely behaves! Is your hair naturally straight?

    Also, I adore the pumps you wear, and though my commute to work may not be more than a 15 minute walk, I can not imagine doing so in heels. See, I have been a lab rat for the most part and lived in flats or sneakers and have the pleasure of having wide feet! I tried Ann Taylor pumps, but 5 minutes into walking in them, my feet give up on me! Any advice?

    Lastly, (but not least) I am a big fan of urs! Thanks for all the great information your blog packs!

  • Really Petite May 1, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Lovely background Jean! The green AS necklace looks gorgeous on u! Good choice:)

    I'm trying to incorporate more color into my wardrobe too and ur tips are very helpful!!

    Thx for ur comment on my AT suit and skirt..I really appreciate it! I have to say Jean- u r really the reason I dress better so thank u!!!:)

  • Yuni May 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Awesome post! That blazer's fit is perfection and the last picture of you, your legs look miles long! Is that jacket altered?

  • Olyvia May 2, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I love this post! I actually have never heard of the color-wheel, especially to use as a guide for pairing colors in clothing. I have been just wearing colors randomly and hoping it looks okay. (But I do have lots of blacks, blues, cream, and khaki's so luckily I'm on the safe side of colors). I watched the Wendy video you posted too, and I'm excited now! gonna go try some colors based on the wheel to see if they make a difference. Thanks!!!

  • J May 2, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Stunning outfit! Wish I can pull off that look, but unfortunately, most people at my school wear the usual grey and black, so I'm not comfortable in pulling off bright colors except at home or at parties.

  • b_ra May 2, 2011 at 12:25 am

    The colour of the dress looks amazing on you! I always find that Asians pull off bright colours really well. The tips that you provided are so helpful!

    p.s. your new layout is so simple yet so nice!

  • Michelle May 2, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Gorgeous! I love the blazer with this…and the necklace! So pretty!

    I am so excited to wear dresses and skirts again without tights!! Just found a LOFT sheath dress on big sale for $25 that I want to wear this week!

    And I love the angle of the last photo!! So neat!

  • Sartorial Nerd May 2, 2011 at 1:18 am

    This was a really interesting post for me, especially as an artist. I started playing around with incorporating color theory into outfits, taking inspiration from the Josef Albers 'Homage to the Square' series. You can find some of the paintings here:;=J_1. Albers is arguably the father of modern color theory so he was the perfect person to look to for color ideas.

    I made a few outfits in Polyvore using the paintings are starting points – I would have done an outfit post like this but I'm short one camera so they'll have to wait.

    I love the combination of greens, grays, and blues here. I think Albers would approve too!

  • Rinny May 2, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Beautiful photos Jean! I love the color of the dress on you. I'm surprised that the dress is as roomy as it is on you, because it looks like it fits you pretty well in the first photo 🙂

  • xoladiihoneyxo May 2, 2011 at 1:24 am

    very bright and vibrant but still professional =] Love this outfit on you!

  • Susanne May 2, 2011 at 1:45 am

    The color combination is great! Thank you for the tips.

    BTW love your blog:>

  • Thu May 2, 2011 at 1:55 am

    As soon as spring came, I moved on as much as possible to brighter colors. I usually don't like spring/summer where I am because it always feels like two seasons only (winter or summer). But since following your blog, I feel more safe to try brighter colors, like turquoise in jewelry to add color to my work outfit. Can't dress up much, but from I learn from you, I tweak for work so that it's still casual, but much more interesting than what I normally wear. Love your blog!:) Don't know how I ever did without…

  • Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Great color tips. I've been pairing these color combos but I didn't realize the formula.
    I really recommend colors for work. They really make a simple outfit very unique. Last week, I paired a green top with a navy blue pencil skirt. I wore a white v-neck cardigan with short sleeves and black peep-toe low-heeled pumps. I thought I looked smashing! I'm still working on the jewelry part of my outfits – not quite there yet. My idea of jewelry is a watch.

  • handmade clothes May 2, 2011 at 2:42 am

    I love your dress gorgeous color 🙂

  • Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 2:59 am

    love the photography and new layout!!

  • NikkiSho May 2, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Loves it! Everything from H to T

  • Quest for May 2, 2011 at 4:14 am

    I work in the legal field and although I recently wore bright colors (green and pink) to work, I felt like it called too much attention to me. I may give your suggestion of trying out analogous colors a try, though!

  • isea May 2, 2011 at 9:11 am

    i adore those shoes! thanks for this post–i'd been wondering what shoes to pair with brightly hued dresses. 🙂

  • Bruna Andolfato May 2, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I loved!

  • Jackie May 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I own a lot of black…I'd LOVE to do more color blocking though…

    THAT color, specifically =D

  • Elaine A (TOBeautyReviews) May 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

    haha yes as Jessy said we have the same blazer! That colour looks stunning on you and you made it work even though the fit isn't perfect.

  • Sunshine May 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    oh gosh these photos are so gorgeous! the first one definitely resembles an AT ad 🙂 thanks for sharing about neighboring colors…i never thought about that before. i always try to keep one bright piece + one muted piece so it doesn't look like i'm screaming "look at me!!!" lol. the best color blocking i see so far is definitely Anh in that red skirt + hot pink blouse. so fun and elegant!

  • Ping May 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    jean – what a beautiful look. i love that color on you. thanks for sharing about the color theory. i'll definitely refer back to this page when i want to wear something bold. hope you had a nice weekend!

  • Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Steve Madden has some great nude pumps! I just ordered UNITYY ($90) in blush patent. I stand at 5'3.5 (yes, I hold onto every little bit of inch I've got!) and 100 pounds. Pumps with 3.5 inches or less make my feet look bigger and not the least bit attractive. However, these pumps are 4 inches – which is perfect! For the braver souls they also have ULTAMIT ($100) – the name says it all.

  • Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    hey, Jean

    could you tell me the tailor you use to alter you clothes, specially for coats and blazers in boston


  • Anonymous May 2, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I honestly have noticed since a few months back that you have lost quite a bit of weight (especially the shape of your arms), but I'm a bit surprised that you just take notice of it now. I thought you knew all along 🙂

    Anyway, I like the look of your new website. Keep up w/ the good work.

  • AubreyOhDang! May 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    hey jean, whatcha diggin for there in the bag?

    I love these natural poses.

    man, I love that red&pink; outfit from Anh.

  • fashionforteens May 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Great outfit Jean! The turquoise color is stunning on you and looks great with the green necklace. I've been stuck in a rut lately with neutral colors and tend to go for navy, grey, black, white etc. instead of brights. Bright colors are fun though and are a great update.

  • Lils May 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    I love this outfit. It is so chic and perfect for work. Your blog is so awesome and helped me so much as I transition to more conservative work wear ( yet still maintain the fashion forwardness!)

  • I am Khatu May 3, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I'm go glad you went to the green! love these set of photos, was this when we were a block from each other?

    P.S. what lens do you use? my pictures don't come out like that…

  • Ying May 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    You got the evergreen! (I voiced my vote on Twitter.) I love it!

  • Ida May 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    That first picture is beautiful! Are you ever going to get that dress tailored? It's such a great color on you.

  • Anonymous May 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Do you think you could do a "workout/how to keep fit" blog post? I'm a naturally petite Asian just like you, but your body is sooo toned and I'd love to know how you keep in shape!

  • simplyvonne May 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    love that dress on you. Although I do like black/gray colors for work, I do love brining out the bright colors for spring/summer.

  • sky@laestetica May 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    i love the simplicity of the dress. u look elegant.

  • grace May 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Your photographer is getting more and more talented with each day – Nick should think about starting his own photography business. The contrast of the dress against the pink flowers works wonders.

    That color is absolutely gorgeous on you Jean even though it is ill fitting. Love the simplicity of your blog makeover and the new font (or size?) For your link headers. Will have to use your blog as a bit of guidance 🙂

    Love all the great color tips. Luckily, I can be a walking faux pas at my work place:-) if I boo boo on colors or looks.

  • Irene May 5, 2011 at 12:05 am

    OMG I LOVE LOVE LOVE those nude Louboutins!!!! And the outfits is gorgeous – definitely into wearing dresses and maybe occasionally mixing up some bolder colors. So pretty and fresh!

  • Reflect and Fancy - Fashion blog May 6, 2011 at 6:44 am

    this dress looks just perfect. the shape, the colour..well done!

  • PetiteAsianGirl May 7, 2011 at 2:14 am

    @Anonymous Hello there, I go to Hemmingway Tailors in Belmont. It's a bit of a drive for me when there are lots of tailors right by my house, but I've been going to them for years. I might start looking for a new tailor though that's closer and takes credit card!

    @Anonymous Ah, I did realize I lost some pounds due to stress and other reasons but never realized it was enough to impact my (old) favorite clothes. It's such a bummer! Weight gain for some can be just as hard as weight loss for others. Thank you for the encouragement!

    @AubreyOhDang! LOL I thought Nick was done with pics. He was scurrying around furtively so I got tired of waiting and was sifting in my bag for my phone.

    @Anonymous Hi there! Thank you for the kind words. My hair is naturally coarse and a little wavy, but I use a straightener sometimes, and I keep a dryer sheet with me (like Bounce dryer sheets) to tame flyaways and frizzies. I think a straightener may do wonders for you, but I don't use any heat protectant and probably should.

    The Ann taylor pumps may be for more narrow feet, so I'd try some brands that cater to wide. Target has shoes for wide feet, and Cole Haan also makes wide widths. I definitely don't commute in heels and I can't imaging a 15 walk in the city in heels : ) I wear flats on the subway and keep heels at work.

    @Thu Turquoise is one of those bright yet every classic stones that's hard to go wrong with. I'm sure whatever you choose to pair it with looks lovely.

    @Anonymous Absolutely love green and navy : ) Like you said, it's a pairing we gravitate towards but I did not realize the formula later until reading my book and came across the color wheel.

    @Sunshine I can't get enough of that Anh outfit. And your formula for one bright and one muted seems foolproof. It just seems that this year everyone is pushing the boundaries on colors and wearing many brights at once…it's fun!

    @I am Khatu Seriously? Your pics come out so much better. I can't believe we're using the same camera!

    @Anonymous Thanks for the tips! Both shoes look very nice. Steve Madden has been a bit wide on me, similar to Target pumps that I buy, but they must be a great option for those without narrow feet.

    @grace LOL Grace thank you for your compliments. Nick may quit any day so I'm teaching myself as much as I can.

    @Anonymous I am embarrassed to admit I don't work out, but in Boston we walk a ton (I walk to the grocery store, to the cafe, to lunch) so that is my workout of sorts. Also, wearing heels seem to tone calves!

  • LeeAnne, Style N Season May 12, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Ow, I have similar dress with similar color and similar empire waist but never thought to wear it for work ( ) Come to think of it, perhaps I should! And I tried your color combination trick today, the outfit turned out just lovely. Thanks for the inspiration.

    LeeAnne, Style N Season

  • Beautify October 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Thats a very good colour.

    Check out:

    its also on fashion for petite!!!

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